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Finding a School that Fits...The School Tour!

Posted by Deb Goggins - Director of Admission and Financial Aid on Sep 30, 2015 1:22:07 PM
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One of the most critical (and emotionally charged) decisions we can make as parents involves where we send our children to school each day. Whether your child is just starting Prekindergarten, or you are looking to make a change from their current school, there are many things to consider as you start your school search.

Most school searches begin online, where curriculum, programming and school facts and photos abound. However, the best way to really get a feel for a school is with a campus tour. As we begin the season of school visits, campus tours and admission open houses, parents will spend hours visiting schools to get a glimpse of the programming and culture each school offers. Here are some of the things to take into consideration when you arrive for your school tour:

  • What is the look of the school? Is the campus well maintained and inviting? Does it have separate facilities and teachers for Art, Music, Science, Foreign Languages and Physical Education? Is the library a warm and inviting place? How are facilities used by each grade? Look for student work displayed on the walls and in the classrooms. What is the outdoor space like? Are there gardens, athletic fields, playgrounds and other natural areas that are extensions of the classrooms?

  • Do students and teachers seem to enjoy being there? When you enter a classroom or walk around campus, take note of the adults and children you encounter. Do they approach you and greet you during the tours? What responses do students give when you ask questions about the school? Do the children seem engaged, curious and happy? Are they proud of their school?

  • What is the relationship between teachers and students? This is one of the most critical pieces of information you can look for on a tour. Are the children actively engaging with their teachers in the classroom? Is the relationship comfortable and respectful? Do the teachers seem to know the children well and understand their strengths and weaknesses? DSC_0070

  • What do the classrooms look like? Studies have shown that younger children learn best in smaller classes of under 18 children. Are the teachers able to break into even smaller groups for differentiation in the classroom? How are the classrooms arranged for optimal instruction?

  • How is technology used in the classroom and on campus? What kind of technology is used in the school and how is it incorporated into the curriculum? What skills are the children learning as they progress through the program from Early Childhood, Lower School and Middle School and are they developmentally appropriate for each age?

  • What do lunchtime and recess look like? Parents often don’t think about the importance of lunchtime in a child’s day, but that unstructured time is critical to a child’s well-being and often their enjoyment of school. Not only should you be looking to see that the school provides child-friendly and nutritious meals, but you should also observe the dining environment. Are teachers present? Are children eating cafeteria-style or in a family dining environment that encourages conversation, good manners and student-teacher interaction?

  • What is your impression of the older students on campus? While you may be looking for PreK or Kindergarten for your child, it’s hard to imagine that they will someday be in middle school and high school. Ultimately, schools are preparing students to succeed as learners, leaders and citizens. Often you will meet older students on campus, as tour guides or in the classroom. How do they speak of their overall school experience, their teachers and their preparedness? Listen carefully to how they describe their time at the school, as they often have the best insight into day-to-day school life.

Often parents tell me that their experience on the campus tour helped them to envision their child as an engaged, successful learner in the classroom. You know your children best. Trust your parental instincts during your visit and ask lots and lots of questions!  

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Topics: schools, admissions, private school search